Renting a camera body

Recently I decided to supplement my camera gear by renting a Canon 1DX. I didn’t buy it when it first came out, as I thought it was a step backward; its resolution is less than that of my 1ds Mark III, which I normally use. But I did hear great things about the improved dynamic range, and the 12 frames a second definitely come in handy. As I was about to leave for a two-week shoot for Bayliner Boats and Sea Ray Yachts, I figured this would be a great time to try it out. Not only were we going to shoot lifestyle and boat-to-boat shots, we also were going to shoot the interiors of the bigger boats and have two days of running shots from a helicopter. In the future, maybe I’ll write a review about how the camera performed, but that’s not what this article is about. This one is specifically about my experience renting a camera body — hopefully what I learned will be helpful to someone down the road.

The week before the shoot began, I rented the Canon 1DX body online from I’ve had an account with them for about five years; I mostly rented underwater housings from them. The rental was reasonably priced: $500 for a two-week period. As the camera is valued at almost $8,000, I had to send them a current certificate of insurance. That wasn’t a problem at all; my agent took care of that. The day before the shoot started, the package arrived at our hotel outside of Knoxville, Tennessee.

As it was a brand-new camera to me, I figured I’d better check it out and shoot a few frames… which revealed that there was dust on the sensor. And not just a little. It looked like a cat sneezed on it. In all my years of shooting, I’ve never seen this much dust on a sensor. See for yourself; click on the image below to see it at full size:

test shot against blue sky


rendered black and white really shows it


just for fun, here is how Lightroom 5 visualizes spots...

To say the least, I was pissed. Here I am, the day prior to a major photoshoot, with a camera body that’s absolutely useless. So I fired off a email to the VIP department at, attaching the blue sky image. To their credit, they responded very quickly with the following email:

I’m sorry to hear you’re having some trouble with that 1DX. We had our technicians inspect that camera before it went out yesterday, but I’ll be sure to inquire about this with our shipping manager when your camera returns to our facilities. I noticed that you’re shooting a blue sky at F22, which really exaggerates any amount of dust that appears on the sensor. Are these dust spots appearing in your shots at wider apertures? Do you have access to a small blower so you can apply some air directly to the sensor? If you’re not able to get the sensor reasonably clean, would you like me to send you a replacement camera? The quickest I could have it out to you would be tomorrow morning before 10:30am. If you want to go that route, can you please let me know what address you’d like me to send the replacement camera to? Please let me know what you’d like to do and I’ll do my best to assist.

As no small blower would do anything for that kind of dust, I chose to have a replacement camera shipped. Unfortunately it didn’t arrive until after the morning session ended. So, over lunch, I checked out the replacement body; it was definitely much cleaner. But it was far from perfect… if you shoot it larger than f11, the dust never showed up. However, if you happen to be shooting interiors with a 17 tilt-shift lens, you better be at f22. And here is what that looked like:

As you can see: still plenty of dust. Which translates into many hours of retouching… hours of my life that I won’t ever get back.

In conclusion, I am not sure I’ll rent a body from them again unless they are making some significant changes in how they inspect and clean their equipment. Of course, I could’ve cleaned the sensor myself; however, if I would’ve scratched it, I am pretty sure I would’ve had to pay to have it replaced. Bottom line: The camera should have a clean sensor when it’s shipped out.

Anyway, rant’s over… lesson learned. Onward!


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